Opposing roles of CLK SR kinases in controlling HIV-1 gene expression and latency

Subha Dahal, Kiera Clayton, Terek Been, Raphaële Fernet-Brochu, Alonso Villasmil Ocando, Ahalya Balachandran, Mikaël Poirier, Rebecca Kaddis Maldonado, Lulzim Shkreta, Kayluz Frias Boligan, Furkan Guvenc, Fariha Rahman, Donald Branch, Brendan Bell, Benoit Chabot, Scott D. Gray-Owen, Leslie J. Parent, Alan Cochrane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: The generation of over 69 spliced HIV-1 mRNAs from one primary transcript by alternative RNA splicing emphasizes the central role that RNA processing plays in HIV-1 replication. Control is mediated in part through the action of host SR proteins whose activity is regulated by multiple SR kinases (CLK1-4, SRPKs). Methods: Both shRNA depletion and small molecule inhibitors of host SR kinases were used in T cell lines and primary cells to evaluate the role of these factors in the regulation of HIV-1 gene expression. Effects on virus expression were assessed using western blotting, RT-qPCR, and immunofluorescence. Results: The studies demonstrate that SR kinases play distinct roles; depletion of CLK1 enhanced HIV-1 gene expression, reduction of CLK2 or SRPK1 suppressed it, whereas CLK3 depletion had a modest impact. The opposing effects of CLK1 vs. CLK2 depletion were due to action at distinct steps; reduction of CLK1 increased HIV-1 promoter activity while depletion of CLK2 affected steps after transcript initiation. Reduced CLK1 expression also enhanced the response to several latency reversing agents, in part, by increasing the frequency of responding cells, consistent with a role in regulating provirus latency. To determine whether small molecule modulation of SR kinase function could be used to control HIV-1 replication, we screened a GSK library of protein kinase inhibitors (PKIS) and identified several pyrazolo[1,5-b] pyridazine derivatives that suppress HIV-1 gene expression/replication with an EC50 ~ 50 nM. The compounds suppressed HIV-1 protein and viral RNA accumulation with minimal impact on cell viability, inhibiting CLK1 and CLK2 but not CLK3 function, thereby selectively altering the abundance of individual CLK and SR proteins in cells. Conclusions: These findings demonstrate the unique roles played by individual SR kinases in regulating HIV-1 gene expression, validating the targeting of these functions to either enhance latency reversal, essential for “Kick-and-Kill” strategies, or to silence HIV protein expression for “Block-and-Lock” strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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